Use Your ATM Card Once A Year To Keep It Valid

If you’re the type of person who never uses your ATM card—and we really mean never in this case, you might want to call your bank to find out if there’s a minimum activity threshold to hit to keep it from being deactivated. A reader tried to use her Bank of America ATM card recently and kept getting an “invalid transaction” error at every ATM. She called the number on the back of the card to ask what was going on: “I was told that since I hadn’t used my card in a couple of years it was closed, even though the expiration date is several years in the future, and I hadn’t received any note that suggested I should cut the card up into tiny pieces.”

Perhaps most people use their ATM cards all the time, or already know this, but I was surprised and disappointed to find out that I could not use my card when I needed it.

Lucky for me this wasn’t a dire emergency, but it was still enough to leave me temporariliy frazzled.

(Thanks to l i!)
(Photo: DarthMullet)


Edit Your Comment

  1. This seems like the kind of thing that can’t help BoA that much, but doesn’t help the consumer at all. So, typical BoA behavior.

  2. nedzeppelin says:

    ehh doesn’t help the consumer? i only wish all those credit cards i had half-opened in the past would close after a year of inactivity. capital one still sends me $0 balance bills, but mysteriously only about once a year. i can’t even use my capital one card because when i first applied for it and got it in the mail, and called the number on it to activate, they asked if i had spoken to anyone in the fraud department yet. i said no… that has never happened to me before when trying to activate a card. the fraud department wanted me to send them a copy of my social security card and all this nonsense, so i just said screw it i’ll find someone else who wants my business.
    but they never closed my account. that was about 3 years ago and i still get the rare $0 bill.

  3. Letsgohokies says:

    The same thing happened to me with a Best Buy card. I hadn’t used it in a couple of years and I went on the website to update my new email address. It said invalid account, and when I called the customer service number, they said it had been purged. I asked her why they wouldn’t contact me to let me know, and she just said that I could reapply.

  4. BuddyGuyMontag says:

    @The Count of Monte Fisto: it does help the consumer for a security reason. If it falls into the wrong hands, you’ll have a a whole new issue to deal with.

    And before this starts the typical anti-BOA landslide, the exact same thing occurred to me with an account I had with a smaller local bank. It was an account that was used ONLY to pay off a car loan. It got two direct deposits a month to fund the account, and one withdrawal when the loan was due.

    I never used the ATM card they provided me, and the account went a little crazy when I attempted to close it when we found out what the problem was.

    So, again: Not just BOA, and I understands why it happens.

  5. fostina1 says:

    what? does she use cash? thats wierd. dont remember the last time ive seen cash.

  6. Buran says:

    @The Count of Monte Fisto: Huh? Perhaps the card wasn’t used due to it being lost or stolen? How is the bank to know? With financial matters like this it’s best to play it safe. You bet if money had been lost, this would have been a “I lost my card and the bank didn’t close it even after I hadn’t used it in a long time!” rant.

    You literally can’t win if you’re a financial institution because no matter what you do someone will pin you with evildoing even if it really might just be a safety measure. (I’m not talking about fees for bank errors and the like here, before anyone starts yelling at me).

  7. @Buran, @BuddyGuyMontag: : I guess what I meant was they should contact the consumer before taking any action. That’s what Citizens Bank did for me, and I was glad they did. I would have been really pissed if they had preemptively disabled my card. Should have been clearer about that.

  8. FLConsumer says:

    @fostina1: Tell me about it… Just happened to use cash at a toll booth the other day and was handed one of the new $5 bills. First one I’ve seen. I questioned the attendant as to if that was a fake bill or not.

  9. Carl3000 says:

    At least they just canceled it instead of charging a “non usage fee” of $30 a month or somesuch nonsense – as they have done to everyone I know

  10. shockwaver says:

    @Letsgohokies: With the best buy card, what most likely happened is that switched providers – which would render the old accounts closed. I know they tend to do that every few years.

  11. Gadgetgirl says:

    What I don’t understand is why a letter wasn’t sent out. I have a Wachovia checking account I opened online (yup, a whore for free money incentives) that I hadn’t used in months and received an inquiry about the lack of activity. I checked my account, made a deposit and everything was ok.

  12. Buran says:
  13. girly says:

    Why should carry a card that says it is valid when it isn’t?

    If they really were worried about a lost or stolen card because of inactivity, a simple notification letter wouldn’t hurt, which I did suggest online.

    At least then I would know I was carrying it around for nothing. The message generated on the ATM is not helpful either.

    BTW, I was at the DMV for the first time in several years and they allow credit cards for online/mail but not for in person as I found out! They were very nice, though.

    The icing on the cake was when the BoA teller told me that my signature didn’t look like the one on my license.

    All the hunting around in an unfamiliar part of town, losing my place in line due to the amount of time it all took me, etc, put me in a great mood for my license pic, LOL!

  14. Pfluffy says:

    I had this very thing happen to me. My local small bank refused my debit card transactions because I didn’t use my card within the year. I was left embarrassed at the grocery store checkout line. My bad. It took several days to get a new card activated. I should have carried at least a check or cash, but life these days, who can do everything perfectly?

    One mega bank where I have another account allowed a card not activated or used in 3 years to be used for all sorts of fraudulent activity and charged me all sorts of huge NSF fees for the pleasure. That inconvenience involved filing several police reports and took up a huge chunk of my life I’ll never get back. Eventually all the money was restored and all charges were reversed. But the merchants are out of the money charged.

    All things considered, I appreciated the small inconvenience and embarrassment from my local small bank a whole bunch more than the mega bank allowing the fraud and charging me excessive fees for their security lapse.

    I learned to check ALL of my accounts very frequently to keep from losing truck loads of money and all of my spare time and make sure I have access to my cash when I need it.

  15. girly says:

    @Pfluffy: I really don’t mind the bank being proactive. The account was active, though, just not the card.

    The point is they need to communicate with the customer. I would say it’s the equivalent of a change of terms. My card says it expires on X date, and now it is already expired.

    Tell me the policy up front or at least send me a letter if you close my card.

  16. Pfluffy says:

    @girly: Agreed.

  17. girly says:

    @Pfluffy: Thanks! That does cheer me up!

  18. girly says:

    Thanks for posting this, btw, Chris.
    Maybe someone else will avoid getting caught by this.

  19. cmonty06 says:

    Really, I dont think it is unreasonable to expect the card to be used at least once a year. Maybe that is just me.